Assessing Collaborative Efforts

How should participation in a collaborative learning community be assessed? How do the varying levels of skill and knowledge students bring to a course affect the instructor’s “fair and equitable assessment” of learning?

Teachers and instructional designers have to determine how to grade collaborative learning assignments in an online format.  Palloff and Pratt (2007) suggested that students should get graded by their peers in regards to their commitment, by their instructor, and on the overall content.  The rubrics for grading those assignments should allow some weight The instructor should not assign grades based solely on the final product.  Students have to keep each other accountable by allowing them to tell on each other.  This prevents one student from doing all the work to get the mystical A while the other student becomes a slacker, knowing that the partner has everything under control.  Palloff and Pratt (2007) cautioned that the assignments have to be truly collaborative in nature.  Do not assign assignments that can be accomplished by one person.  “Students learn best when teachers present them with tasks that they can’t complete when they are working alone” (Raudenbush, n.d.).

If a student does not want to network or collaborate in a learning community for an online course, what should the other members of the learning community do? What role should the instructor play? What impact would this have on his or her assessment plan?

For students who are unable to participate with their group because of schedule conflicts or emergencies, that person has to immediately contact the rest of the group and instructor to make them aware of the situation.  This should be noted in the guidelines/rules of what to do in situations like these.  For situations where the student is not motivated to participate with the group, the group will eventually take out points on their assessment of that individual.  The instructor has the responsibility to follow up with students who are not carrying their weight in a group project (Palloff & Pratt, 2007).  The group members need to encourage the person who is not participating by trying to connect with them (e.g. phone call, email, text, Facebook message).  If that does not work, the group needs to let the professor know that the person is not responding nor contributing.  This leaves room for the professor to adjust the scope of the final product to reflect the abilities of the students who are able to contribute.


Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Raudenbush, D. (n.d.). The effects of cooperative learning on student learning and assessment.  Retrieved from


Posted on Theresa Wiggins

Posted on Mary Tolson


3 thoughts on “Assessing Collaborative Efforts

  1. Do you think at the graduate level students should still have to be encouraged and motivated by group members who are not participating? I really think there should be a line drawn somewhere if someone has made it that far and still does not work well with others or carry their weight. Should a graduate level student be given another chance in a situation like this? I agree with you that the professor will need to make adjustments to the assessment to cater towards those members participating. I also would think the group member should be given an alternate assignment to complete. It would be great if there was a way to have this alternate assignment involve collaboration within a group, but I am unsure how it would be arranged.

    • Hi Mary,
      I do think that graduate level students still need the encouragement to post by the implementation of required posting dates and amounts. Tervakari et al. (2012) looked at posting dates and frequency of logging in by students and noted that a significant amount do so around due dates. If you notice our discussion boards, most posts occur around the due dates rather than the beginning of the week, which is consistent with their findings. For group projects, students should remind each other about due dates or to have each other explain themselves when they are late. I am not saying that graduate level students are bad at time management and are unmotivated; rather, distractions and emergencies occur. Some policy has to be put in place to account for the situations that people go through.

      Tervakari, A., Silius, K., Tebest, T., Marttila, J., Kailanto, M., & Huhtamäki, J. (2012). Peer learning in social media enhanced learning environment. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 7(3), 35-42.

  2. Hi Sanjay, I like the fact that you include the Paloff & Pratt (2007) suggestion that, group members are best to encourage the person who is not participating by trying to connect with them. Sure, ultimately, it is that person’s responsibility, but when we are collaborating there might be considerations we don’t know about, so doing all we can to help others participate and to be inviting is always a good idea. We are all learning from each other.
    Also, the process of giving feedback in a way that is helpful is a good experience for us as instructors always seeking to improve our sensitivity to accessibiity issues. Perhaps there is an accessibility issue that we are not aware of.
    At this level it is more about doing the right thing rather than requiring members to reach out to others in the group
    Devonee Trivett
    p.s. Please access my blog at, and give me some feedback! I need it!


    Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s